In “The Taxman Cometh” (4/13), Joseph Dunn writes that President Franklin D. Roosevelt’s “massive experiment with redistribution failed to work as planned.” On the contrary, F.D.R.’s experiment exceeded expectations. Beginning in 1933, nearly three million 18-year-old men went to work in the Civilian Conservation Corps.
In the 60 years prior to F.D.R.’s presidency, 16 economic downturns occurred with unemployment ranging from 12 percent to 25 percent. After F.D.R.’s last term, unemployment has never once reached 12 percent. Median income increased over 60 percent during the “housing, highways and high tax” economy. Median income has otherwise typically declined in the “low tax economy.” The percentage increase in median income with Clinton’s tax increase was nearly double that of Reagan’s tax cut.
Mr. Dunn writes, “The limitations of an economy based on housing, highways and high taxes were becoming apparent by the late 1950s.” The second President Bush perhaps made apparent the limitations of an economy based on tax cuts: the recent Great Recession was the ninth worst economic contraction since 1856.
Re “Metaphysics and Money,” by Gary Anderson (4/13): Quibbling about motivations for charitable response is far beneath a search for true holiness. We give help, support and friendship to the poor and unfortunate precisely because they are poor and unfortunate and we wish to share and help them to be restored and uplifted. Watch any child instinctively share with someone he or she sees as deprived. No righteous thinking, no judging, no weighing, no bargaining with God, just compassion and an unselfish desire to make things better. Our better natures are altruistic, until someone tries to explain human love and its response in other, self-interest terms. May God bless the generous and make them happy in their sharing.
My Changed Heart
Re “Lord, Have Mercy,” by Jeanne Bishop (4/6): I read Ms. Bishop’s book, Change of Heart: Justice, Mercy, and Making Peace With My Sister’s Killer, in one sitting. In 1980 I lost my sister Patricia to her husband, who took his own life. I felt pity for him, especially because he hurt so many people in the last act of his life. After reading her book, I see that I can do more. I can pray for him and ask God to show mercy to him. With God there is no time, so my prayer now can be seen by God from all eternity and it can still help. Again, Ms. Bishop, thank you for your amazing book and witness.
Talk the Talk
Re “A Space for Women” (Editorial, 3/30): America did well in focusing on the Voices of Faith gathering at the Vatican on International Women’s Day. On that Sunday, a woman, Kerry Robinson, the executive director of the National Leadership Roundtable on Church Management, was invited by the archbishop of New Delhi to preach at the liturgy in a small parish inside the Vatican—probably a first, at least in this millennium.
The editor’s proposals are helpful. However, on the first, attention to language, things have been moving backward in recent years. After enabling inclusive language in the liturgy for more than three decades, the new Roman Missal took it away and substituted impossibly sexist language. In addition, the Lectionary omits texts on the roles of women in the first-century church, which is extremely offensive, since we come to church to hear God’s word, but hear only parts of it.
If Catholics consistently hear at church that only the existence and discipleship of men is of significance, it will affect how they see themselves and persons of the opposite gender. Furthermore, it is also important in journalism. America was exemplary for decades in using only inclusive language but recently has become rather negligent in adhering to it. Maybe we should all be quiet for a while and listen to what God may be calling us to be and to do.
Re the responses to “No White Man Is Innocent,” by Nathan Schneider (3/23): It seems there is a horrifying misunderstanding of what racism is. It is not simply white-hooded men. Accepting a black president, having black friends, hiring black men and women, living next door to a productive African-American family—these do not disprove the existence of racism.
This is why no white person is innocent. Understand “racism” first; then see the systemic, out-of-sight out-of-mind racism that is prevalent in America but is oftentimes beyond a white person’s knowledge. It is my ignorance of this truth that leaves me guilty, not by choice but simply by birth. If I choose to remain ignorant of this truth, that is where the problem lies.
In “On Dying Well” (3/16), Jessica Keating writes: “Suffering unto death can be penetrated and transfigured by the mystery of love. This transfiguration occurs in hidden intimacies. Choosing to die early forecloses such possibilities.” As a hospice chaplain, I’m often struck by how these transfigurations unfold slowly over time. As loved ones face the reality of death, relationships slowly open up in ways that invite greater love, healing and reconciliation, sometimes after years of distance.
Early on, family members may be filled with fear and trembling at the prospect of losing their loved one. Over time, they dig deep to find an inner strength and resiliency that sustains them through the struggle. Those who are dying may dig in their heels and hold on tightly to life, not ready to let go. Little by little, they begin to loosen their hold as they slowly open to the mystery of dying. They are often moved by their awareness of God’s love permeating it all and sometimes speak of the nearness of God. The process is profound, as is the grace that flows through it. This is but a glimpse of the dignity to be found in the natural dying process.
In “A Cry of Hope” (3/9), a review of Robert Ferguson’s Inferno, Frank Hermann, S.J., speaks of a “punitive impulse” seizing our society as one cause of the high prison population in the United States. Does he really think that most Americans enjoy punishing people? Or are they concerned for their safety?
Curiously, no mention is made of the family’s breakdown—talk about a glaring omission. In The New York Times Ross Douthat writes: “In a substantially poorer American past with a much thinner safety net, lower-income Americans found a way to cultivate monogamy, fidelity, sobriety and thrift to an extent that they have not in our richer, higher-spending present” (“For Poorer and Richer,” 3/15). In Coming Apart, Charles Murray has a message for affluent whites: “preach what you practice” (family, stability, work, education, thrift).
Is it true that “society’s punitive impulse confines people in cages with nothing to do and without any future”? Do we not spend an enormous amount on recreation, health care and education for prisoners? None of this obviates the fact that all lives are worth living. But to attack a problem effectively, we need to tackle the real cause: family breakdown.
Revisiting ‘Coal Canyon’
I have seen only two responses to Stella Jeng Guillory’s poem, “They Build a Hogan in Coal Canyon, Arizona” (3/2), and neither assessment has been complimentary (Reply All, 3/30). Allow me to ask readers to give it another look. Like Scripture, art sometimes requires a type of anagogic vision, a lifting of the veil, in a sense.
Ms. Guillory has seemingly presented a grotesque meal, but to me it undoubtedly signifies the Eucharist. The Passover lamb (kosher killed) must be completely consumed (Ex 12:9). The wilderness of Coal Canyon (a very remote place) draws us to make the Passover connection even further. In our gut reaction to the poem, we can feel like those at the end of St. John’s discourse on the bread of life: “These teachings are hard; who can accept them?” (Jn 6:60). But a little bit of time and faith and wrangling, and all of a sudden you realize what some may call “disgusting” is perhaps the most important thing the world ever received. I think there is a lot in this little poem, maybe even the Infinite.
On April 16, the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith and the Leadership Conference of Women Religious issued a joint statement announcing an amicable end to the Vatican’s investigation of this group, which represents the majority of women’s religious orders in the United States. Readers responded to the news.